“And yet actually the communities people seem to really care about is not the national community anymore, not the geographical community, not their street, not their school, not their town, but it’s their identity community.
“It’s what is their sexuality, what’s their gender, what’s their race.
“And those communities are virtual, they’re online, and that changes human discourse completely.”
Many women reach out to online ‘communities’ for information and support (or validation) for pregnancy, birth and parenting experiences. This is potentially fraught, but also for many the only release from feeling isolated and uncertain. And the ‘identity’ related to this is the ‘type’ of parent you are, or the ‘type’ of birth you want. Some times the ‘type’ is thrust upon us, due to being ‘labeled’.
In maternity care being too old, too young, too fat, unproven…can limit your options. In labour, being labelled with ‘failure to progress’ can be devastating. Having ‘declined’ in your records, or a mental health ‘label’, invites negative care where bias against these labels flows. The illusion of control, and standardization, means that despite all these labels we do not have individualised care. And the labels are not self determined, but imposed. So what can you do if you get stamped with a birth limiting label?
Birth ‘plans’ can shut down conversation when bias sees them as challenging, or inflexible, or unreasonable. So many people suggest calling it ‘preferences’ or ‘wishes’…or my choice: Map. An interesting thing happens when we use a different label. Using ‘preferences’ and ‘wishes’, whilst trying to infer flexibility and soften ‘plan’ can also imply ‘not very important’..you know, if it is ok…but I won’t argue.
The word Map, opens up conversation, and when coupled with ‘informed decision’, holds weight. The label we use will change our view, it adds a bias (positive or negative), as we draw on all our resources to understand. This means it can also trigger a placebo or nocebo effect.
It seems that the Quest for Identity is also reaching new heights, as is the human drive to categorise everything. This is one area we can self-determine, we can use the labels to express ourselves more effectively. Or we can use these labels to access funding. Sometimes our labels must be sanctioned, sometimes it is enough to have self-determined.
Becoming fixated on a label/type/identity may prevent us from seeing further, or finding alternative explanations. As parents, we can find ourselves facing contentious issues, where advice swings from one extreme to another, and despite the inconsistency, we must make decisions. This inconsistency is why it is so important to be able to self-determine. To have autonomy: access to information and support, and the freedom to own our decisions.
Our Insurance-centred approach to risk management, means that the labels are loaded and our options limited, not because of best practice, but to protect from potential litigation. It is for this reason that I have a problem with ‘consent’. I have written on this before, I’ll put the links below, for the theme of labels, ‘consent’ is loaded with expectation. It is ‘leading the witness’. Use ‘decision’ instead, and there is no implied direction, in the word. I wrote a poem about it.
The Trouble with Consent
We Should focus on Choice, not consent (also been published on PBBMedia under the title ‘Why Consent, when you can decide’, whilst there join the mailing list to access the awesome podcast about consent.)
Do Not Disturb (a poem which features in The Book)
Labels a response to an article about ‘pregnant people’ and the need for individualised care in our maternity system.
Who I am? is a poem exploring how social media might be influencing our identity and driving the need to label ourselves.
Polite Ticks is a think piece looking at sex and gender
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” poet and writer Maya Angelou. The Care Factor. Is it possible to care without love? And what happens when you can’t care for the one you love? What is care?
I followed this with a new poem Imagine…Instead of preparing children for the ‘real world’, let’s change the world to be prepared for children.
Once a Jolly Woman, to the tune of waltzing matilda, explores the confidence that comes from Informed Decisions. (this was published in the current issue of Birthings from Homebirth Access Sydney)